I receive many calls throughout the growing season to identify problems with plants. The most common “disease” I identify is lack of water. Gardeners are often under the false impression that their garden is moist enough to support the plants in their gardens. Containers and hanging baskets often fall victim too, as they often have to be watered twice a day in the very hot weather. Often over-watering can cause damage in your garden but it is obvious not enough water can be more devastating.
Many of the gardeners I have talked to recently claim that their garden has enough moisture because they have watered it regularly during the recent hot dry spell. While you may think you have applied enough water, it is not enough moisture to combat the terrible drought conditions we have been experiencing this past spring and summer.
If you don’t believe me do a simple test. Go outside with a pitcher of water, pick a spot on your lawn and pour the water on the spot, pour it all from the jug in one spot. See how quickly the ground is absorbing the water? If the ground was moist, the water would sit up on top of your lawn and slowly seep into the ground after spreading out into a puddle at the surface. The drought has caused the water table in the ground to be very low this year so every bit of moisture is sucked deep in the ground and used up immediately, this does not leave water closer to the surface where your garden plants need it. Also, during the hot and sunny days, if there was any moisture at the surface of the ground, it would readily evaporate.
The best way combat this situation, is with a regular watering regime. And I mean watering not misting with the hose. The worst thing you can do to your garden or lawn is stand for a few minutes and spray the ground with the hose. If the surface of the soil is glossy with moisture that does not mean the rest of the soil is wet. Stick your finger through the top of the soil, I guarantee the soil below is dry. This method of watering does way more harm than good. First of all, if you continuously water your lawn and garden this way throughout the season the roots of all of your plants will grow to the surface in order to benefit from the small amount of water you are providing. In the event of hot and dry weather the lawn will turn brown very quickly, as well as the leaves of your plants will turn brown, curl up and eventually fall off. The roots of the plants could be burnt or damaged because they are so close to the surface of the soil. This is not a plant disease but a symptom of drought. It is important to provide your garden with a constant schedule of regular watering for a prolonged period of time. I am not promoting the wasting of water but a wise use of the water you have access to.
To adequately water your garden you need to apply water in a constant manner for at least 30 minutes, longer if the conditions are drier. The best method of this is with a soaker hose system. A soaker hose supplies a steady stream of water, right where you need it, with out losing any to the air like with a sprinkler. In the event that you have large gardens, like me, you may have to water with an oscillating sprinkler. Set the sprinkler to apply a constant supply of water for at least 30 minutes. The time may be less if the ground is not as dry or may need to be longer if the ground is extra dry. This constant but steady supply of water allows the soil to absorb and hold the water at the level that the plants need it.
I monitor the soil moisture and water accordingly to the garden’s needs. I also have two rain barrels of rainwater that I use for watering when extra watering is needed with the watering can.
I strongly encourage you to adopt a regular and through water regime for your garden. By keeping a consistent schedule of providing moisture you will actually use less water in the long run. Regular moisture will reward you with beautiful and healthy gardens.